The Norman Conquests: Synopsis

Cast: 3 male / 3 female
Table Manners running time (approximate): 2 hours 5 minutes - not including the interval.
Availability: Table Manners is available for both professional and amateur production.
Acting edition: Published by Samuel French.

Characters

Reg (Annie & Ruth's brother)
Sarah (Reg's wife)
Annie (Reg & Ruth's sister)
Ruth (Reg & Annie's sister)
Norman (Ruth's husband)
Tom (A vet)
Paul Allen is Alan Ayckbourn’s official biographer and has written two books: the biography Grinning At The Edge (1999, Methuen) and A Pocket Guide To Alan Ayckbourn’s Plays (2004, Faber & Faber). He has also written numerous articles about the playwright and the following synopsis is taken from his book The Pocket Guide To Alan Ayckbourn's Plays and offers one of the most succinct synopsis of the entire trilogy.

Table Manners, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden - to give them the titles by which they are now known - show us three dove-tailed accounts of events at a country house over one weekend; one shows us what happens in the dining-room, the next in the sitting-room and the third in the garden. The house belongs to an unseen but tyrannical invalid woman whose unattached daughter, Annie, cares for her. On the Saturday evening when the plays start, Annie's brother Reg and his wife Sarah have just arrived to take over nursing duties so that Annie can go away for the weekend. Reg, one of a number of Ayckbourn men who can never quite remember the names of his own children, probably hasn't thought about it at all, but Sarah assumes this has been arranged with Tom, the local vet, who has been hanging around Annie as fixedly as her old jumper but failing actually to court her.

In fact, the weekend, in the less than raffishly exciting hideaway of a Sussex country town (East Grinstead), has been arranged with Norman, an assistant librarian ‘with a rather aimless sort of beard', who is prepared to court any body. Sarah - bossy, impatient, interfering but ultimately very vulnerable - soon talks Annie out of that but isn't persuasive enough to talk Tom into it. Norman, who has turned up expecting to take Annie away under the pretence of going to a librarians' conference, is therefore at a loose end about the house and free to wreak havoc, which he does. Interestingly, though, his ‘crimes' are all things the others to some extent encourage or need. Reg enjoys Norman's jokes. Tom thinks he is wise in the ways of the world and gives good advice. Annie wants to be swept off her feet by someone and Sarah is badly in need of attention and understanding of some kind.

Finally Ruth, Norman's wife (and sister to Annie and Reg) joins the party unexpectedly. She is a high-powered but seriously short-sighted executive who duly catches him with two women apparently fighting over him but is promptly talked into joining him on a much-abused fake fur rug for the night.

Norman also attacks the invalid, which everybody else would like to do.
Table Manners ends at 8.00 on Monday morning with Annie back in a clinch with Norman; Living Together ends at the same time with Sarah telling Reg she fancies a weekend away, without him. But the final scene of the trilogy, the close of Round And Round The Garden an hour later, sees Norman alone in the garden, hurt and indignant that none of the women will take him up on his offer to make her happy. Each has recognised his opportunism for what it is.

Copyright: Paul Allen. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.

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